Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 177

Monday 25th June 1984

Woke up at 8.00 and got up at 8.00. At school it was assembly, then when we came out it was Topic groups. Then we had PE, and after that I did Topic. At 12.00 I had dinner, then me and Ozzie did maths till 2.00, when we went out for rounders. Dammit! We lost.

Came home at 3.15 and made some badges, then I had tea. After that Dad, Poggy Doggy, Tina and I went down the gate, then to Private road and met… *ARNOLD THE COW!!!* At 7.10 We came back and I watched Manimal, and at 8.10 I watched Scully. Went to bed at 9.00. 

Badges! Forget this misleading talk of ‘topic’ and ‘maths’ and ‘assembly’, what I really did on this stiflingly hot Monday was set up a home-based cottage badge-making industry with Doug. Spurred on by our success dismantling old ‘I LOVE ET’ badges and reassembling them to bear the logo of our short-lived ‘SCUMMER CLUB’ (see this diary entry), we decided to clink Tizer cans together, smile smugly and GO INTO BUSINESS, DAMMIT!


And so, when I claimed I was ‘doing Topic’, what I was actually doing was ‘taking orders from gullible children willing to pay me 10p for a shoddy-looking Frankie Goes To Hollywood badge that, in reality, they’re never ever going to receive’. The idea being that Doug would hustle for business, and I would use my artistic flair (and my WH Smiths felt-tips) to produce custom-built badges paying tribute to our willing victims’ favourite pop groups. (Providing they were Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Wham or Bucks Fizz, the only three pop groups I could actually draw)


Naturally, Wendy Brunskill was cornered as our first client. This it the conversation that I remember…

Doug: How about Frankie Goes To Hollywood?
Wendy: OK…
Doug: Fischer, is that OK?
Me: Yep!
Doug: Consider it done. How about Wham?
Wendy: OK…
Doug: Alright, Fischer?
Me: Yep!
Doug: Consider it done. What about Buck’s Fizz?
Wendy: Hmmmm…. bit old, aren’t they?
Doug: They’re going to make a big comeback soon, mark my words…
Wendy: Err….
Doug: Is that a yes?
Wendy: Sorry, I was just distracted by Fischer’s shoes. Those are the chunkiest shoes I’ve ever seen in my life.

At which point, the deal collapsed and we had to start thinking about voluntary redundancy packages.

She was right though, I WAS wearing ridiculously chunky shoes. They were a pair of bright red Beetlecrushers that I’d seen in the window of the Middlesbrough branch of Dolcis and fallen in love with. Combined with my ubiquitous black shirt and brushed up hair, they made me a dead ringer for Russ Abbott’s comedy Teddy Boy, Vince Prince…


This was also, and there’s no easy way of saying this while retaining a single scrap of dignity, the day on which I decided to remove my eyebrows.

Again, it came from a whimsical conversation between Doug, Wendy and me that quickly descended into heated debate. ‘Eyebrows are utterly pointless!’ I ranted. ‘They don’t DO anything, they just sit there under your forehead!!!’

‘If they’re that pointless, then why don’t you cut yours off?’ asked Wendy.

‘Alright then, I will’. And right there and then, at the maths table in the middle room of Upper Band, I snatched a pair of plastic-handled safety scissors from Christopher Herbert’s sweaty grip and started snipping casually away at my eyebrows, much to the hilarity of the rest of the table.


‘Mrs Keasey, Robert’s cut his eyebrows off!!!!’ laughed Doug, as our long-suffering form tutor walked past, blissfully unaware of this inexplicable act of self-mutilation.

‘Oh, for God’s sake’, she tutted, rolling her eyes. By the time I’d finished, I was joining in with the laughter myself, and immedately raced to the ‘Boy’s Bogs’ to assess the damage. At which point the laughter stopped. I looked like a mild burns victim, so much so that – the following day – our elderly neighbour Margaret Smith discreetly took my Mum aside and asked if ‘Robert has been messing about with aerosol cans’.

I told my Mum I’d done it without realising, and that I’d been concentrating so much on some ‘dead hard maths’ that I’d idly rubbed away my eyebrows with my fingertips. I don’t suppose she believed a word of it, but she couldn’t be bothered to find out the truth. They grew back in a week anyway. I might do it again if I’m bored one afternoon.  

And *ARNOLD THE COW*!!! Fantastic. I’m quite proud of the fact that I was so adept at building utterly dreary everday events into something far more exciting, and I suppose – pffff – I do it for a living these days. With my Gran in hospital, we were looking after her dog, Tina. She was Poggy Doggy’s sister, and the arrangement would soon become a permanent one, just like her equally inexplicable nickname ‘Poggles Ponsonby’.

So my Dad and I walked both dogs to the ‘Private Road’. It’s just a little country lane that snakes into the fields and woodland about half a mile from my parents’ old house. As we ambled down there, an interested-looking cow ambled over and mooed in our direction. We stopped for a giggle, and fed the gentle beast a few clumps of grass and dandelions, which she gingerly but gratefully snaffled from our open palms.


‘What do you think she’s called?’ I asked. 

‘Arnold,’ smiled my Dad, with a finely-honed sense of the ridiculous. ‘By the way, have you been messing about with aerosol cans?’

I spent the rest of the night watching telly with one hand across the top of my eyes. Great to see a mention of ‘Scully’ though, a slice of brilliantly and comically bleak Channel 4 drama. Written by Alan Bleasdale and set in dole-ridden Liverpool, as 64.7% of TV drama HAD TO BE, by law, in the mid-1980s. Elvis Costello sang the theme tune, and (I think) acted in it as well, playing the title character’s model train-obsessed brother…


  Chris Orton wrote @

Cut your eyebrows off? That’s nothing – at our secondary school somebody (not me!) was dared to burn their eyebrows off with a bunsen burner. And like a fool they did it.

Scully’s out on DVD now! Quite good stuff, and features a whole host of future familiar telly faces if I remember correctly, including a McGann, half the cast of Bread and Bruce Grobbelaar (he of the wobbly legs).

  Fiona Tims wrote @

Please shave your eyebrows and take photos. I think it would give me a giggle ;p

  Dr Giles Parcel wrote @

The eyebrow is far from pointless – it exists to keep moisture, granules and insects out of the eye. Remember, it evolved in the days before goggles were discovered and so it has a proud, pre-medieval heritage.
To wilfully destroy one’s super-orbital upholstery is a foolish act as I’m sure your eleven-year-old self discovered when you spent the rest of the summer with your eyes full of sweat and ladybirds.
At least you could still see enough to watch Scully. This is, as has been noted, well worth revisiting courtesy of the Network DVD.

  bobfischer wrote @

The removal of my eyebrows had seemingly no ill effect whatsoever, other than to make me look permanently surprised at whatever the world threw at me. Which was a fairy accurate reflection of my 11-year-old mentality anyway.

I didn’t realise Scully was out on DVD, though! I’d completely missed that. Must have had a ladybird in my eyes.

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